A small mountain village of Biescas de Obago, at the foot of the Pyrenees. The people of the village, living their lives, following their own customs and traditions. This is shortly before the Spanish Civil War. A love story that should not have taken place. A teacher, who is an outsider, sets to tell the truth of what happened at that time. That forms the basis of, “The Frost on his Shoulders” by Lorenzo Mediano.
The reason I started with the plot and that too in a rather unusual manner is because the writing is different and highly satisfying. Back to the plot: The plot starts with the villagers chancing upon an article written by the school teacher, dredging up old history and besmirching the name of the town. The villagers are infuriated. They want the teacher to take back what he has written. The question remains: What did he write? He retracts the article, apologizes and goes on to document of what really happened – the love story of a young shepherd boy, Ramon and his wealthy beloved, Alba.
The story is narrated by the teacher. The restriction imposed on the lovers is not because of any animosity between the families. It is basically to ensure that the social construct of the village is not broken. Here at some point, I also began to draw similarities to 1984 by Orwell, only because of how individualism was broken and not willed to grow.
I liked the teacher’s voice, as he was the outsider and Mediano has ensured that he has the tact and honesty while narrating the story. Another thing which struck me was that the book is tagged as a work of “ecofiction”, which essentially means putting the environment and surrounding above the plot or on par with the plot. Ramon’s rebelling against society for instance is clearly explained and supported by nature.
Lorenzo Mediano’s writing is clear and shines throughout the book. The societal constraints as expressed and what the lovers will do to not be a part of it is written with such great subjectivity, that the reader cannot help but get further embroiled in the story. The story is about landowners (Alba’s side) and workers (Ramon’s side), who agree that things should be the way they are and no one should be allowed to cross boundaries.
“The Frost on his Shoulders” is definitely one of the best reads for me of 2012. Concise and touches on almost every aspect of life. A must read if you want to experience a different kind of writing.